30 June 2011

Gelato alla Vaniglia con Frutti di Bosco

Vanilla ice cream with berries, a simple pleasure of life that I wouldn't trade for anything.  After a tiring walk, I look forward to a big bowl of gelato alla vaniglia con frutti di bosco as opposed to my husband's cappuccino with apple strudel or my son's ice pop & lollipop.  Don't even ask me what happens if I trek for hours and find out that the rifugio (refuge) doesn't have it in the menu.  95% they have it.  I don't even want to dwell on that 5% of probability.

5 Torri of the Dolomites.
We walk with heavy packs on our backs.  Everything seems to be an essential when you trek up the mountain with kids.  Jackets, sweaters, food, diapers, cameras, sunblock....and the list goes on.  Even in the peak of summer, the mountains can get very cold so we practically have clothing for all seasons on my back.  Our 1-year old stays on my husband's back on her backpack baby carrier.

Rifugio Scoiattoli, 2255 m. in June 2011.
At times, I question myself how these tortuous walks can be considered a pleasure.  Come to think of it, you walk under the sun with heavy backpacks with whining kids as the background music.  It's the indescribable scenery, the triumph of attainment and pleasure or enjoying it all with a cup of cappuccino, a glass of beer or a bowl of gelato in front of you.  That is the reason why we keep on knocking ourselves out from walking.

This is not even a recipe.  It is just a 3-minute composition of little heaven.  Vanilla ice cream + fresh berries + a light drizzle of white sugar on the berries = pleasure.  It's not so easy to find all the berries in the fruit shops.  Once I do find them, I get all kinds and prepare this simple and wonderful dessert.  

Gelato alla vaniglia con frutti di bosco and hot chocolate from Rifugio Scoiattoli.

Penne Rigate with Chanterelle Mushrooms, Speck & Tomatoes

Sometimes I wonder how it is like to live in the mountains.  As I turn 360 degrees, the panorama doesn't stop captivating me with its beauty.  I have been going to the Dolomites for 12 summers already following my husband's footsteps of spending about 30 summers in these mountains.  How is it like that we never get tired of this place?

25 June 2011

Risotto ai Funghi (Mushrooms)

A week in the Dolomites and I think I am already gaining weight.  If not for the trekking and biking we had been doing, I wouldn't fit in the clothes I brought with me. Seriously, I am in trouble because I can't stop eating in this place. There's not much variety in the menus of the rifugi (refuges) or restaurants but you never get tired of the redundancy nonetheless.

20 June 2011

Spinach, Sundried Tomatoes & Mint Frittata

Gathering the last contents of the refrigerator, I created this simple and delicious frittata.   Accompanied with a prosciutto and cheese platter, it completed our quick and last dinner before taking the last things and driving off to the Alps.

17 June 2011

Chicken Rolls with Peaches & Spinach

I dubbed this week my "food elimination week".  We are leaving for a long vacation and my main goal is to leave the kitchen bare of any candidate for decomposition.  Practically everything fresh and cured.  No one wants to come back home with a little surprise on a platter of dreaded moldy food that miraculously quadrupled in size and altered the homely smell to something indescribably horrendous. 

11 June 2011

Riso Cantonese (Cantonese Rice)

Eggs, green peas, prosciutto cotto & rice.  These four ingredients make up the Cantonese rice or riso cantonese.   Adapted to the Italian palate, it is one of the most ordered food in the Chinese restaurants in Italy.  In fact, I don't know anyone who goes to a Chinese restaurant here who doesn't order this along with involtini primavera (spring rolls), spaghetti di riso cinesi (Chinese rice spaghetti) and pollo alle mandorle (chicken with almonds).  And for an average person, these already connote the whole Chinese gastronomy.  Not so many venture outside these four-dish menu.  We order five so we join the rank of the adventurous.  But we have been ordering exactly the same dishes over the years. 

08 June 2011

Cherry, Asparagus & Corn Salad

It's confusing when you are confronted with different types of fruit.  It's cherry season and there were about four types in the supermarket.  Practicality dictates to get the cheapest variety but they pale in comparison to the more expensive types beside it.  Dark red, shiny and and irresistible looking cherries from Vignola (a town near Modena) won me over.  I took a box of half a kilo to try.   When I served them after dinner, we were all astounded by the taste.  They are so intense and sweet.  It's not so often nowadays to find such scrumptious fruit.  This interested me and I googled the cherries from Vignola.  I found out that they are the top prized cherries of Italy among 150 different varieties produced in this country.

Sometimes, limited ingredients work out wonders.  Dinner was some breaded fish sticks and I needed a side dish to go with it.  I had my last bunch of asparagus that needed to be cooked and a couple of ears of corn.  Instinctively, I roasted all of them on the griddle.  If you asked me a year ago on how I cook asparagus, I would say just steamed then drizzled with extra virgin oil.  When I discovered how good they are roasted on the griddle, I shelved the steaming.   Roasting intensifies the wonderful flavor of the spears.

The corn got roasted next.  I needed something contrasting to perk up the taste and color.  I was deliberating whether to use the cashew nuts that I tried once with this salad or some sweet grape tomatoes or try out something new.  Cherries.  There was a bowl I was draining beside my chopping board.  So I grabbed a handful of ripe cherries.  I pitted & chopped them, then mixed them with the salad.  The vibrancy of its color gave the salad a new life.  Red, yellow & green together made up a delicious looking dish.  The flamboyant splashes of color were shouting summer.

My husband and I polished off the whole bowl meant for 4.  Believe me, it was delicious.  I will do this salad over and over again until cherry season is over.

Cherry, Asparagus & Corn Salad

Serves 4
  • 800 grams asparagus, hard part taken away
  • 2 ears of corn
  • 1/2 cup cherries
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • salt 
  • pepper
  • extra virgin olive oil
  1. Wet the griddle (or a thick bottomed saucepan) with very little oil then wipe off the excess with a kitchen paper towel.  Sprinkle some salt all over the griddle then warm it up over medium heat.
  2. Distribute the asparagus on the griddle.  Brown them, turning often to avoid burning.  Chop them coarsely and transfer them to a big bowl.
  3. On medium heat, on the same griddle, toast the corn cobs next.  Brown all sides without burning. 
  4. Hold the corn cob vertically and slice off the kernels from all sides. Add them to the bowl with the asparagus.
  5. Pit and coarsely chop the cherries. Mix them in the bowl of the asparagus and corn.
  6. Season the salad with the balsamic vinegar, extra virgin olive oil, salt & pepper. 

07 June 2011

Mini Sandwiches

When I make these mini sandwiches, my kids can wipe out a plate.  This is not even a recipe, just a very simple idea that could boost the appetites of the choosy little ones.  All you need are cookie cutters, slices of bread of whatever kind, and the fillings.   The sandwich fillings I prepared are basic and simple.  Canned tuna & mayo seasoned with salt & pepper.  Mayo ranks low in my family so I put a minimal amount.  The rest of the sandwiches are ham and cheese.   I use prosciutto cotto (cooked ham) and individually sliced cheese (whatever kind) because they are easier to cut with the cookie cutters.  Prosciutto crudo is tastier but the cookie cutter will not penetrate it.

I wanted to make these for my 5-year old's end of the year class party but the food had to be in the classroom before 9 AM and the sandwiches had to be freshly done to retain the moisture.  I pondered on it for some days and finally abandoned the idea because it takes time to cut the bread, cheese & ham.  Unless I was willing to sacrifice a few hours of sleep.

So it was pizza al taglio to the rescue once again.  It's the type of pizza commonly found in Rome where the pizzerie sell them by weight.  They are about a meter long and rectangular.  You indicate the size you want.  From that piece that they cut, they weigh it, cut them to pieces, wrap them in paper and you can take it away.  It's a very quick & cheap bite.

06 June 2011

Farfalle Italiane with Matcha Green Tea, Pistachios, Raisins & Zucchini

After featuring the candy-colored farfalle primavera last month, I had to blog about this other vibrantly colored farfalle.  This tri-colored pasta is aptly called farfalle italiane because of the Italian flag's colors. 

Last Thursday, Italy had a big celebration commemorating its 65th year of Festa della Repubblica. Festival of the Republic is the day when the country had a referendum choosing between a republic or a monarchy to govern Italy after the fall of Fascism.  The republic won and all the male descendants of the monarchy were exiled from the country.  Incidentally, the 150th year of Unita' d'Italia (Unity of Italy) was also celebrated.  It is the day when the country became one unified nation.

03 June 2011

Croxetti with Tomatoes, Salami & Olives

This pasta is unknown to anyone I asked.  I first saw it on TV years ago and had wondered from then on about it.  Then suddenly, while searching for new types of pasta in the specialty shop, it jumped out at me.  I got ridiculously excited when I saw what it was, checking the embossed emblems or shapes on each pasta disc.  It really is reminiscent of the Communion host.  And I finally learned the name.   Hello croxetti