30 May 2011

Elicopenna with Salmon, Pancetta & Green Peas


When I came up with this recipe, I was, as always, in a frenzy in the kitchen.  I didn't have so much in my fridge to cook so I had to scout for leftovers and frozen ingredients that I always keep for emergencies. I found some frozen green peas & spinach. In the fridge, I had one remaining package of pancetta affumicata and an open pack of smoked salmon.  Imagining the flavors, I was thinking that I would be creating something tasty.  I don't think i ever combined salmon with pancetta before. The only thing they have in common is that they are both smoked.

27 May 2011

Matcha Green Tea, Pistachios & Chocolate Rice


Here I am again with the rice dessert.  I guess by now I can officially say that I love cooking and eating them.  I resort to rice desserts because they are simple to make and require less attention in the measurements of the ingredients.  With my hurried nature, I tend to disobey measurement rules and baking requires precision.  Two small, active kids make you run, literally, at any given time.   I dream of baking those beautiful cakes that almost don't look real.  Sigh.  For now, I have to satisfy myself with quick & easy desserts.  So if you are looking for those picture perfect cakes, try again my blog in a couple of years.  Maybe I will be able to surprise myself in creating my dream cake.

Pasta alla Norma


Any type of food that has an attachment to Sicily perks my interest.  I will always stretch my limit for  Sicilian gastronomy. Among the regions of Italy, Sicily is one of my favorites. Not because my husband's roots are from there but because the island is superior in culture, history & gastronomy. Also noted are the people's friendliness that can melt any icicle & the outstandingly preserved ancient Greek & Moorish monuments scattered in the island.

24 May 2011

Sea Bass with Fennel, Lime & Olives


Oftentimes, I spend more time looking for the English equivalent of some Italian food terms in the internet than cooking the dish itself.   Everyone has his own opinion and declares it as a fact that it gets frustrating to have more than one word to rely on.  I am almost certain that spigola is sea bass in English. 

I occupied my time the past days switching our clothes from winter to spring/summer.  It was a relief to touch the fabrics of linen and cotton again while I put away the wool and thick clothes.  Just by the touch of the fabrics exhilarates me.  New colors are popping out in the garden everyday.  All the wonderful spring fruit I had been waiting for are coming out in the fruit stands.  I don't think I need do state that I love spring the most.   After being cooped up indoors throughout winter, it is a relief to enjoy outdoors again. 


Eating under the olive trees, the first forkful of this fish sends you to summer instantly.   The ingredients are fresh and light.  It's deliciously summery.  I remember seeing an advertisement years ago of a product that I don't remember anymore.  It was in full winter and with this product, everyone was imagining summer.   I thought it was lame.  Aha, I don't think it's the first advertisement with that storyline.  In a nutshell, I bit my words because I also imagined full-blown summer in the beach while I was eating this.


I didn't need to stay in the kitchen while I was cooking this which is fundamental when the time comes it becomes unbearably hot and you don't want to die of the heat while cooking.  At the peak of summer, I usually abandon my kitchen and say arrivederci until the promise of a temperature drop again.

I first cooked this with a couple of limes then I used lemons the second time around when I took the photos.  The limes give much better flavor than the lemons.    


 

Sea Bass with Fennel, Lime & Olives

Ingredients:
Serves 2
  • 2 sea bass (or any similar fish)
  • 2 fennel bulbs, coarsely chopped
  • handful of green olives, pitted
  • 2 untreated limes, quartered (or lemons but limes give a better flavor)
  • handful of cherry tomatoes, halved
  • salt
  • extra virgin olive oil
Directions:
  1. Put all the ingredients together in a baking pan.  Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil & sprinkle with salt.  
  2. Bake in the pre-heated oven at 180°C for 45 minutes (or more, depending on the size of the fish).
  3. When the fish is cooked, clean it by separating the meat from the bones and skin.
  4. Transfer the fish to the plates with the vegetables and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil before serving.




23 May 2011

Dark Chocolate Pancake & Banana Towers


Pancakes drizzled with maple syrup take me back to my childhood.  For an afternoon snack, my siblings, our playmates and I would have them, noisily eating in the terrace or high up on the guava tree in our backyard with a big plank of wood secured in between the big branches.  It was a balancing act between a glass, a plate and yourself while eating.  Just the sight of it made my mother nervous that she long abandoned scolding us for having acrobatic tendencies to eat.  

Philippine Pork Adobo


As soon as the first beautiful banana leaf came out, I snipped it away.  If only my plants could uproot themselves from the soil, I think they would all run away shrieking as soon as they see me lurking around with a pair of shears.  I feel like the sinister antagonist of a suspense film of humans against plants.

Why a banana leaf?  Today, I decided to make a Philippine dish called adobo.  It is pork (or chicken or both) cooked in soy sauce, coconut vinegar, peppercorns & garlic. 

17 May 2011

Strawberry, Basil & Rose Ice Pops and Smoothies



Because the basil in the frutti di bosco (mixed berries) salad was spectacular, it was imperative to mix it with the strawberries too.  They even have a better partnership, I have to say.   It was divine. 


I just bought a big box of strawberries that needed to be consumed fast.  I was going big time with my imaginations of elaborate strawberry desserts but I only accomplished the basic - ice pops and smoothies.  I didn't have enough time to browse around for recipes let alone think so I just thought of my kids' pediatrician's orders.  Since the kids are so addicted to ice pops, it was better if I make them myself knowing that there is 100% fruit in them.   


At home, I often prepare two versions of anything I cook.  One adult and the other, kiddie version.  With the ice pops, I only mixed the fruit, sugar & water for the kids while I added some basil & rose petals for the adults.  When I tasted our version, I almost yelped with delight.  I think I really did and even laughed triumphantly a bit but had to regain my composure because I suddenly felt like a mad scientist who concocted something sinister.  Picture me with a mess of strawberries, remnants of roses & basil stems all over the kitchen counter with a half full blender and red spills everywhere. 

16 May 2011

Frutti di Bosco with Basil, Roses & Creme de Cassis


Little trays of raspberries, blueberries, cranberries & blackberries are carefully lined up inside the box of frutti di bosco that I took from the fruit section. When I was maneuvering my way towards our cart, my five year-old's eyes almost popped out.  Then when I went back with yet another big box of strawberries, I got scared that his eyes were really going to pop out.  I see that I struck a good chord.  He can easily dethrone Cookie Monster with his remarkable appetite of frutti di bosco.  In fact, at barely 2 years old, he was already able to pick his own wild strawberries & blackberries in the mountains.

14 May 2011

Roasted Asparagus, Scamorza & Pancetta Frittata


Let's take a little stroll to cholesterol lane this time and see how good this frittata is.  We are fast becoming a health conscious society but sometimes we need a break.   I never digress with the healthy dishes I feed my family but sometimes, we all take a vacation from it, close our eyes and enjoy what verboten food has to offer.  

I don't think it needs so much imagination to understand how tasty this dish is.  The three ingredients speak for themselves.  Oh, and there is also Parmigiano Reggiano.  Need I say more?

10 May 2011

Farfalle Primavera ai Fiori del Giardino


I'll just get a couple of things.  When I say that, I don't believe myself.  I am worse than a kid inside a candy shop when I enter food heaven a.k.a. specialty food shops.  I do try my best to keep myself focused on the essential food that made me take a trip there in the first place but I always lose the battle of self-control.  

06 May 2011

Rice Salad with Carrots & Chive Flowers


It's been a long time since I last dedicated a dish to my one-year old.  Since she weaned herself a long time ago from baby food, I didn't find the necessity to cook special dishes for her.   She drops everything for rice these days.  It's not really something I would gladly give her because she literally drops a lot of them on the floor, on her clothes and on her chair.  It's exasperating to clean up after one of her enjoyable meals but once you see a big smile of satisfaction on her face, you just forget all the backbreaking labor of taking away the rice from everywhere except the ceiling.  After all, we all went through this phase before reaching full dexterity of handling our eating utensils.

Grapes Wrapped with Emmentaler


Every night, my son likes to be read a story before sleeping.  My husband and I take turns in reading to him.  He reads in Italian while I read in English.  Our son understands both languages perfectly but he stubbornly refuses to speak in English.  He denies to strangers that he's bilingual and sees any Italian speaker who tries to speak with him in English as a conspiracy to take out his hidden language.  Once, I saw him speaking with an Australian couple who were struggling with their best Italian to converse with him while he insouciantly ignored their difficulty in handling the language.  They soon realized that he does understand English but was not admitting it.  When it was apparent that his little secret was uncovered, he moved to a safer ground - an Italian couple.

Oftentimes, as a joke, I take out my recipe book called Bruschette & Stuzzichini, I Piaceri della Tavola and start inventing stories about the bruschette & crostini.  He lies down all prepared for a treat of a fairytale when I start with "Once upon a time, there was a bruschetta who......".  Obviously I never get to finish one sentence without a sudden shriek of complaint and a playful jostling in bed to grab the proper fairy tale book which I always hide under my cookbook.   That is actually the only time when I get to scan my cookbooks.  And that is how I discovered this wonderful recipe.



Grapes Wrapped with Emmentaler


Ingredients:
Serves 2
  • 10 pieces of  grapes, washed & dried
  • 125 g. emmentaler cheese, sliced thinly
  • mild or sweet paprika
  • chestnut honey or any honey
  • 10 chive leaves
Directions:

  1. Take away grapes from the cluster, leaving a little bit of the stem.
  2. Wrap each grape with emmentaler.  Secure by tying a chive leaf around the cheese.
  3. Sprinkle the top of the grape lightly with paprika then follow with a drop or two of honey.








Grapes Dipped in Gorgonzola & Pistachios


I love appetizers that capture the eyes.  In fact, this is the course that I like the most.  There's nothing more enjoyable than creating finger foods, putting together leftover ingredients and just experimenting with flavors. 

On warm months, we usually stay outdoors in a bar across the road to a big playground enjoying a late afternoon aperitivo (aperitif) with a big spread of finger foods and little bowls of various concoctions.  We take it as an opportunity to teach our son to cross the road responsibly towards the playground and back to us.   More than once, he asked me to prepare a whole cocktail spread at home.  I balked at the idea of creating myriad little plates of food.  It seemed like a herculean task because I also had to think of dinner too and a baby who cannot detach herself from me.  But when our baby started to take interest in zooming along with his brother to the playground too, it was time to pack up the idea of sitting down in an outdoor bar.  The time to recreate it at home had to commence. 

03 May 2011

Zuppa d'Orzo (Barley Soup)


While looking for the English translation of orzo, I was surprised that orzo is actually known outside Italy as a type of pasta that resembles grains of rice that are slightly bigger.  They are called risoni in Italy.  It is a pasta shape that is commonly mixed with baby food because of its size.

01 May 2011

Oven Roasted Sausages & Potatoes with Paprika


This is one of those dishes that doesn't need so much preparation & explanation.   You just dump the tray in the oven and you have an hour to choose on whatever pressing matters to attend to.  Multiple choice:  A. Noisy children somersaulting all over the house that need parental intervention.  B. Find a "pesticide" for the toys that sprout from every inch of the floor.   C. Find another moving object as an alternative for a monkey copycat that tends to grab on to your legs hoping to peak at what's cooking.  D.  None of the above, I'd rather pretend to be a part of the bed and stay immobile for the next hour.   How I wish to choose D but I have to choose all of the above except D. Sigh.