Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The Legend of the Villa della Luna

 The Novel Bakers have been busy this week.
On Monday, the NB were in southern France, exploring a tucked-away farmhouse called Pistoulet.

Today, we  packed up our pots and pans and visited Villa della Luna in Italy.

Villa Della Luna is the sequel to Pistoulet.
It opens after Mademoiselle J. has left the farmhouse in southern  France and has traveled to Paris.

She still has moments of melancholy.
(But who doesn't?)
A visit to a tea room brings a glimpse into her future and news of another unexpected journey.

She has been invited to Italy, but she will need her passport.

And she needs another cup of rose tea to settle her mind. 

Can she muster the energy to pack her bags again?
If she can't find joy in Paris, why would she find it in Italy?

Maybe she should stay home and eat chocolate.

When a woman is sad or hurt,
her heart can resemble a turtle's shell.


A bit cumbersome.

Impossible to remove without causing discomfort.

It's been said that our thoughts--positive and negative--can literally rewire our brains.
We will live longer and be happier if we train ourselves to look for silver linings.
Sometimes we must travel within.
Sometimes a change in geography will set off an inner change.

Mademoiselle arrives at Villa della Luna.
It is the most beautiful place she has ever seen . . . yet it possesses a wildness.

An untamed, unpredictable element.

So very different from Mademoiselle J.'s buttoned-up, orderly world.

She needs to remind herself that another journey must start with letting go of the past.

The first order of business is comfort food: Risotto.

 [Note: I'm cooking corn-and-pea risotto tonight for my husband's 63rd birthday. Just for fun, he's getting a peanut butter and chocolate cake. ]

Next, Mademoiselle took a hot sudsy bath, with a splash of gardenia oil.

The menu at Villa della Luna is extraordinary, nourishing the soul, mending our rough places, and helping us find simple pleasures.
Mademoiselle is served "Minestrone of Memories and Reflection."

 This unusual soup summons memories of people who shall not be forgotten.

Another lovely meal: "Pasta Vivante: For those who are afraid of the Passion of Life."

I made two types of pasta--both were delicious.

Farmhouse Linguine with Organic Tomato Sauce
adapted from a recipe on "Extra Virgin" (cooking show)
extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper
organic tomato sauce
fresh mozzarella or your favorite Italian cheese
pasta (I used fresh)
1 shallot, chopped
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Cook for 3 minutes until translucent/clear. Salt and pepper.
Add three cloves of garlic and cook for 2 minutes.
Add 1 -15 ounce can of organic tomato sauce (no salt added--add your own sea salt to taste)
Roll 3 or 4 fresh basil leaves into a log and slice (or chop). This method helps prevent the basil from turning dark. Add to sauce.
In a separate pan, bring salted water to a boil. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil.
Add1 package of linguine.
Cook for 3 to 4 minutes. Drain pasta and add to sauce.
Add finely chopped, fresh mozzarella or your favorite cheese.
Garnish with more basil.

Pasta Vivante is another dish. We love the hearty fare, with pancetta and penne.

No meal is complete without the "Focaccia of Forgiveness and Release:
For those who need to let go of an emotional burden."

"Luna" wine is served with each meal.

If you are very quiet and very, very lucky,
the enchanted ducks of Villa della Luna will visit.

Sometimes you must read between the lines to discover
more unusual items on the menu.
Blood orange liqueur is a staple at the villa, but you must search for it.

[Note: I poured a bit of liqueur into a delicate blue glass, and when I
rearranged an orange, the fruit tumbled and knocked over my glass and splashed
onto the bottle.]

There's a lesson here.

I, like Mademoiselle, must learn to leave the oranges alone.
Embrace imperfection, and maybe I won't spill Italian liqueur, or worse.

Mid-afternoon snacks at the villa include cherries.
But Mademoiselle is still all neat-nicky and asks for a place to discard the pits.

An ancient box appears at the table.

(If you need a vial for tears, just ask and one will be provided.)

Some meals at the villa are downright fanciful.

But everyday meals are Mademoiselle's favorite.

Mademoiselle J. discovers a few truths about life and herself:
a little wildness never hurts a house, a recipe, or a person. Everything works to the positive--in moderation, of course.

Except when you dance in the moonlight.

 "Mademoiselle picked three crimson roses, and despite the increasing power of the wind,
she turned and began to make her way to the lighthouse."

Someone is waiting.
Waiting for her.
And she has been waiting for him.
Waiting her whole life.

I have only touched on a few of Mademoiselle J's adventures. Many more await you.
Visit the Novel Bakers for recipes, foodie fun, and deliciousness from Villa della Luna:
The Novel Bakers will return on Foodie Friday, June 28th, with
A Circle of Kindness.

 The trilogy was written and illustrated by Jana Kolpen,
and the books were designed by Mary Tiegreen.


  1. This was so lovely and relaxing. Unfortunately I have to go to a math in-service today (7 hours of math!) - so I will try and remember these lovely soothing images all day!

  2. SWOON! I've died and gone to flower & food paradise! The pages strewn with petals...the TABLES...the enchanted DUCKS...the bunny tureen...I'm reeling from sensory overload! The rose petals serving up blackberries...*sigh* I love that you included your personal photos~ such a personal and clever touch but what should I expect from a baking novelist? :) Your Pasta Vivante looks oh so good and I love your wellies sprouting rosemary & your foccacia too! Jain is going to be over the moon! Thanks so much for such a beautiful start to my day :)

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. Absolutely lovely story and pics! I scrolled through your pics 3 times!!! ...and as usual, I am hungry!!! LOL

    PS. I many not comment as often, but I never miss a Foodie Friday! One of these days, I am going to join! :)

  5. Oh my, Michael Lee, I think I've just travelled to Italy right from my chair in my family room! Wow, what a magical journey I took with such colorful photos and beautiful words. Now, if only I could taste those wonderful dishes....I'm dreaming!

  6. i cannot tell you how much fun, and umm jealously and envy of everyones immense talent, i have had this morn! look at your adorable mug, where did you get that! i am dying to scroll down and track it down, but i write my comments as i see them, so you get my fresh, guttural response!

    i am so smitten with all your floral shots, they are all so beautiful... i am learning so much! and the turtle shell never looked so darn good, brilliant thought and shot...

    but i got goose bumps on your family pics... what treasures, how lucky are we that you are sharing with us... what a treat to have this funny, brilliant author pop in and play with both feet firmly planted in the magic of della luna...

    and then you feed us... not only with your beauty and words, but with delectable honest to goodness bites... i have to pause to take it all in, i know how long it takes to prepare these posts, each segment is time and thought, all to just entertain us, and its not wasted, not a single thought or shot, you are feeding our body, minds and soul, a little luna della villa novella.

    and theres that darn failed fococcia of my dreams again, like pouring salt on a nice warm flatbread, its driving me crazy! good thing i am wild over your tablecloth and can just scoot my eyes over to something more pleasant then my failed cooking memories ;-) each shot is cuter and cuter, right down to your rosemary boots are made for walking!

    OMG is all i gotta say, it just keeps getting prettier and prettier, your matching dishes, gorgeous food, perfect wine pairings, al fresca dining and even special entertainment of the feathery kind...

    i am drawn to your blood org, i need to make my own this winter :-) the splash looks like you are dining seaside by a very heavy iron lighthouse in the background...

    i love all your fruit shots, my favorite pic is the barn to the side, there is a plethora of pics i will be stealing from you... and if you lived close enough that rabbit would be MINE!

    well my dear that was one helluva a fun book through your eyes, i feel SO satiated, i have been feed, coddled and cooed by the best of the best story tellers, what as a treat for all my senses. thank you so much for being a novel baker, the world is a better place for it ;-)

  7. Oh my WORD, woman... your talent and creativity obviously know no bounds!

    I am practically speechless. ~ I found your post to be even more entertaining than the book. Truth!

    So many beautiful photos, absolutely gorgeous. The flowers, the food, the ducks and beautiful arrangements and tables . . . love that you tucked your own photos in amongst the others. Sweet!

    What a wonderfully happy way to start the day! Thanks for sharing it all. It will be a pleasure visiting with you in Ireland on Friday. ;) xo~m.
    P.S. Happy, Happy Birthday to the Good Doctor, and many happy returns of the day.

  8. Dear Michael Lee, I too am speechless after scrolling through your incredibly beautiful presentation of our book! It was many years ago that Jana and I traveled to the Villa della Luna, and experienced the magic there. The magic and memory of the story continues through you and your wonderful photographs.

    Thanks so much for all the work and creativity and love that you put into this page. It means so much to both Jana and me.

    All best wishes,

    Mary Tiegreen

  9. Michael, I have Pistoulet...didn't know there was a sequel! Gorgeous post, so many beautiful images. Love your story telling!

  10. I found you at Mary's..had no idea it was you..I am so surprised to find you here!
    You must love this ..
    Books and food etc..
    The tea cup drew me looks like a fortune teller's cup and I quite like it..The gaggle of geese:) kept me..
    I bought Pistoulet because of Mary..and only on page 3..It's charming.
    Over my book quota this month so I will read this one vicariously:)

  11. I was transfixed as you illustrated both books in beautiful photos. Your creativity is delightful and I am in awe. You post was very enjoyable.

  12. You must be careful with oranges (and watch out for the peaches)! I love the photo of you and your hubby in Minestrone of Memories and Reflection.

  13. This post is truly phenomenal...breathtaking pictures...and i was taken by the old family pics...My mom has pics of so many of friends and relatives sitting on the hoods of cars (like your pics) or just standing by them..then there are the beach many memories of looking through her albums with the same type of pics...enjoyed each and every gorgeous picture...and love how you set the table with the front of your home in the background...just beautiful...So love this series!!! You ladies are so very talented!!

  14. i find is to exciting the authors have acknowledged you too, its so nice when they get to see how much we enjoy what they present to us the lucky readers :-) congrats to the highest honor!

  15. I am mesmerized and speechless, I have been transported to a magical place and don't want to return...excuse me, I have to go back now...

  16. I'm in awe of your creativity here, Michael Lee. Each image draws me in like a magnet. The blackberries in the rose petals, all the gorgeous vibrant flowers, your family photos, the gaggle of geese .... I don't want to leave this post. Love the idea of the Novel Bakers. Each one of you are incredibly talented! ~ Sarah

  17. I.... am quite speechless (and believe it doesn't happen a lot)
    It's one AMAZING post!
    Breathtaking photos, fantastic presentation.
    Sorry, I really can't find the words to describe what I think or feel...

  18. Beautiful, ML, you outdid yourself. Whoever ? :) gave out the assignments expects a lot, and you sure did a lot!
    I wonder why you didn't link this to Let's Dish? I am ready for Foodie Friday this week.

    1. My hubby had a dental emergency. He's much better! I'll be delighted to link up next week. I finally have something with dishes!

  19. Flat out gorgeous! Thanks for taking us on such a beautiful trip.

  20. What a beautiful post - I enjoyed every single photo.