29 September 2011

Salame Inglese (Chocolate Salami)


This mock-sweet salami dessert captivated the life out of me like it did to my husband as he went through his childhood.  What baffles me is why it is referred to as English.  I do know that it's Sicilian by origin.  To a few, it's aptly referred to as salame al cioccolato (chocolate salami) but its real name is really salame inglese


I first encountered this sweet salami dessert in Sicily in a local trattoria serving regional food.   One of the desserts was salame inglese which our other companions passed for other interesting desserts, but instead perked my husband's interest to high intensity.  I ordered it too, hearing something new and wondering what it was.  I got excited explanations from everyone.  It's a chocolate dessert that looks exactly like a salami but instead, made of chocolate & biscuits.  It's one of my husband's, if not, the only favorite dessert when he was young.  I didn't need to be elbowed to understand that I have to learn how to do it.   It was time to bequeath the recipe to me to prepare for our children, the next generation. If it made the father happy, it might make the offsprings happy too.  We ate our dessert while I got a crash course of making salame inglese.  There was a slight disagreement though about which kind of biscuits to use.  My husband's mother & aunt had different views about it.  Little did I know that the same conversation would take place in Rome with the other sister.  It seems that the kind of biscuit to use is the most fundamental part of this dessert.


So, one afternoon, my mother-in-law and I prepared this chocolate dessert.  She and her sister arrived at our house armed with the ingredients and her quasi 60-year old handwritten recipe.  She used to make this when she was young.  It's a recipe taught to her by her mother.  You can find this recipe easily at the internet, mostly the same, just varying on the calculations of the ingredients.  I'm sticking to this one because this is what my husband has loved while growing up. 


There was a long discussion about the biscuits between the two sisters.  My mother-in-law wasn't able to find the perfect kind.  The perfect biscuits should be simply milk & honey based & longish.   They should be hard & don't crumble easily when you break them to small pieces.  She mentioned that some people also put rum in the mixture but she never tried it because she had always been preparing it for her kids.  My interest in putting rum grew as I imagined how it would taste like.

I decided to do another one the following day, this time with liquor.  Off I went to the supermarket and searched for the right biscuits.  I got stuck.  With all the fuss about the correct biscuits to use, I was scared to buy the wrong one.  Ok, I spent about a quarter of an hour walking up and down the biscuit section without really knowing what I was looking for.  That's the worst thing to spend your time.  I bought the one that seems to fit the description of the proper biscuits to use, plus these biscuits have been in production for 120 years so it has got to be it!


I prepared the rum version as soon as I arrived home.   I was very excited.  The problem is, I had to wait for at least 8 hours before I can rip open the salami and get a slice.  I cheated.  I opened it on the 6th hour.  I loved it.  The rum blended perfectly with the chocolate & biscuits.  I finished the whole salami all by myself in less than a week.  The other one is still in the freezer, eaten diligently every after meal by my daughter, Sofia.  Like father, like daughter.

 

Salame Inglese (Sweet English Salami)

Ingredients:
Serves about 6 (one cylinder)
  • 2 eggs, yolks & whites separated
  • 6 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 9 tablespoons white sugar
  • 250 g. dry milk-based biscuits
  • 100 g. butter, melted
Directions:

1.   Break biscuits to small pieces with your hands and put them in a big bowl.  

2.   Add 4 tablespoons cocoa powder & 8 tbsp. sugar.  Mix well with biscuits.  Add melted butter and mix well.  Whisk egg whites until fluffy.  Add to the mixture & mix well.  Add the yolks.   Mix well.


3.   Lay a long piece of aluminum foil on the table.  Put 2 tablespoons of cocoa powder mixed with 1 tablespoon sugar.  Distribute it well on the aluminum foil.  


4.   Put the biscuit mixture on top of the cocoa & sugar.  Now the tricky part.  Shape the mixture into a long cynlinder, like a salami, by wrapping it with the aluminum foil.  It has to be compact & hard before you close it.



5.   Put it in the freezer for at least 8 hours before serving.   It can last for weeks in the freezer.  Cut a piece when you need some and put it back immediately to the freezer.  Do not leave it for a long time outside the freezer that it starts to thaw.  In case it remains outside long, don't put it back in the freezer anymore.  Just put it in the fridge and consume it as soon as possible.







28 September 2011

Frittata al Tartufo (Truffle Omelette)


Eggs and truffles.  Truffles and eggs.  I was emptying the refrigerator & cupboards from overlooked ingredients that needed to be cooked.  Dinner was an odd mixture of leftovers. I had 4 eggs and an open miniscule bottle of preserved black truffles that was almost reaching its time limit.   Being preserved, it is incomparable to the fresh ones because of its diminished distinctive taste & fragrance.  For this bit of loss, I am boosting it with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil with white truffle essence.  You can smell it as soon as you enter the kitchen. 


This is a sprint dish.  Five minutes tops and you will have it on your table.  I needed something like this that can get along with the rest of my extractions from the fridge.  Leftover caponata, leftover grilled corn that I revived with  a mixture of melted butter, parsley & salt and some prosciutto crudo that I had completely forgotten about.  The kids love grissini wrapped with prosciutto crudo.  I am doubtful if they will eat the frittata with truffles.  Unless.... I drown them with ketchup... which I did and I'm sorry and embarrassed to say.  Cooking at home is like serving in a restaurant.  Our plate contents are all different.  One doesn't eat this but eats that.  The baby can't eat this so she gets something else.  When I was growing up, we were all eating the same thing whether we like it or not.  I wonder if I am doing something wrong here. 


If you have your ears close to our kitchen walls, you would have heard the wailings during mealtimes.  We started to impose our new table rules.  We move to the succeeding food courses together and we pass through a fresh green salad (if there is any) & a fruit before concluding the meal with a dessert.   The waiting alone to finish a course causes a lot of whining & complaints.  The eating of the salad was another story.  




Fortunately, the fruit was easy because both kids are fruit eaters.  Two hours later, with completely deaf ears & almost waving the white flag, we won.  We actually did it!  We were able to feed the kids.  Dinner was a re-run of lunch but about 5 minutes shorter and less whining.   Oh dear, and this is supposed to last for years.


My 6-year old son has started first grade and stays until the afternoon in school.  He eats lunch in school with his classmates.  The school publishes the weekly menu both at their internet site and at the entrance of the school to let the parents know what the kids are eating.  I noticed the same procedure when my son was going to a pre pre-school where we chose to leave him until after lunch.  I like it.  I like the idea to be given the importance to be informed about what our kids are being fed.  They are eating a 4-course lunch everyday which I am happy about.  How do they keep them still that long?  And the food is impressively healthy.   They start with pasta, then meat or fish with vegetables, green salad (sometimes), fruit & dessert.  Morning & afternoon snacks are mostly fruit & drinks.  They say that the snacks should help the kids tide themselves over for lunch, not to fill them up so that they will still have space for the main meal.  I am perfectly agreeable to that.  Now, with the healthy food my son is getting from school, I think I should continue at home too. 



Frittata al Tartufo (Truffle Omelette)

Ingredients:
Serves 4 (as appetizer)
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 tbsp. parmigiano reggiano, grated
  • shaved truffles
  • parsley, chopped finely
  • salt & pepper
  • extra virgin olive oil with white truffle essence
    Directions:
    1. In a bowl, whisk the eggs then add the parmigiano reggiano.  Season with salt & pepper.
    2. Over low - medium heat, in a saucepan with extra virgin olive oil, pour the egg mixture.
    3. After 1 minute, sprinkle the shaved truffles and parsley on top. 
    4. When the frittata is cooked through, invert it with the help of a plate or the saucepan cover.  Cook for a minute.
    5. Divide the frittata into 4 & cut them into bite-sizes.  Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil with white truffle before serving. 






    25 September 2011

    Quince Jam with Port


    I thought nature was playing tricks on me when I first saw the unexpectedly colossal fruit dangling from our spindly-looking "apple" tree.   At the beginning, I thought we had an apple tree because that's what we chose in a long line-up of fruit trees, brought home & planted in our garden.  Instead, we mistakenly bought the only tree that was erroneously tagged.  That was even after going through the tedious process of choosing the perfect tree.   Why does that always happen?  It's like when kids touch the only singular item that's potentially dangerous out of hundreds in a room.

    It was frustrating not to know what kind of fruit tree was gracing our garden.  Maybe some type of apple we don't know about?  We had been waiting endlessly for the fruit to become softer to try eating them but they remained hard as stones and they were getting bigger every day.  Oh dear, something's wrong with these apples!  It was high time we found someone knowledgeable.  With knowledge on the roll,  it was pointed out to us that we have mele cotogne (quince), not some strange apple-being.  Well, technically, quince is a relative of apples & pears.  It's a backyard fruit, something you won't be able to buy commercially.  It's not a fruit that you can eat straight from the tree nor anytime at all.  It only becomes edible when cooked, especially in jams.  What a strange fruit.  


    Before harvest season came, I prepared my cooking battalion.  I amassed a cupboardful of jars to accommodate all the jam I would be making.   For two days, I lost myself in the jam-making expedition.  I just finished the last fruit tonight and boy, was I happy to see that basket finally empty!

    Quince is not an easy fruit to handle.  They are hard and unfriendly to knives.  After almost losing my fingers thrice, I finally found a system that works well.  I put the fruit on a chopping board and peel from there with the knife's motion going outwards.  Some boil the whole fruit with the skin on for about half an hour and peel them after or some just mash them a bit and make the jams with the skin on.   This is not really a bad idea.  


    In making jams, the suggested amount of sugar should be at least 3/4 of the total fruit.  The bacteria cannot live in a very sweet environment so the high level of sugar ensures a more sterilized jam.   Sometimes, some molds appear at the top part.  That is the liquid part that separated from the pulp that lost a substantial amount of sugar.   So, if you are planning to eat them a long time after you made them, say a year, put up the amount of sugar.  I, on the other, cannot eat them when they are overly-sweet so this measurement works perfectly well for my palate and my family's.  Anyway, they never last a long time in our household so the bacteria doesn't get the chance to penetrate our jams. 


    I made two kinds of jam.  One with port and one without.  The jam with port goes perfectly well with aged cheese.  To try it, I partnered it with Dobbiaco Vecchio, a local aged cheese from the Dolomites.  The blending was scrumptious.  Even both of my kids joined in the plunge and polished off an impressive amount fit for an adult.  Our house favorite for the aged cheese is a kind of jam that we can only get in the Dolomites, pears cooked in red wine.   This is what inspired me to concoct this quince jam with port. 

    The plain quince jam, on the other hand, goes well with the toast.  You can adjust the amount of lemon if you want to.  Since quince has such a mild taste, I like to curb the sweetness a bit with the tartness of the lemon. 



    Quince Jam with Port

    Ingredients:
    Yields about 1 kilo of jam that fit in 430 ml. jars (more or less)
    • 1 kilo quince, pulp only
    • 250 g. white sugar
    • 250 ml. water
    • 250 ml. port
    • 1 tbsp. lemon juice 

    Quince Jam without Port:
    • 1 kilo quince, pulp only
    • 250 g. white sugar
    • 400 ml. water
    • 1/4 lemon, juice only


    1. Clean, peel, core & dice the quince.   When you have accumulated 1 kilo of pulp, put them in a thick-bottomed cooking pot. 
    2. Add the water & port (or water only), sugar & lemon.  
    3. Let it boil. When it boils, simmer.  Turn down the fire.  Stir frequently to avoid burning the bottom.  Mash the fruit with the back of the wooden spoon.  Cook for 45 minutes.  
    4. While waiting for the jam to cook, prepare a big cooking pot with a lot of water to sterilize the jars & lids.   When the water boils, put all the clean jars & lids in the water & boil for 15 minutes.  Take them out with tongs to avoid burning yourself.  Let them dry on a clean dishtowel.  Make sure they are completely dry when you are going to fill them up with the cooked jam.
    5. When the jam is cooked, spoon them immediately in the jars & close them tightly.  Turn them upside down until they reach room temperature.  
    6. Store them with the lid up.  




    23 September 2011

    Calamansi Juice with Mint


    If there is something cherished that I took with me to Italy, it's this wonderful plant.  Calamondin to most and calamansi to some.  In Asia, it is called calamansi, sometimes written as kalamansi too. The juice of these small, round lemons is known to be replete with vitamin C.  For that, it is often recommended when you are down with a cold, cough or flu.  Coupled with honey makes it a vitamin-packed drink.   It is more intense than lemons and a bit more perfumed.  


    As an afterthought before taking pictures, I grabbed some mint leaves from the nearby pot for an aesthetic composition, primarily to give color to the dull looking liquid.  But it actually gave a delicious minty hint when I tasted it after shooting the pictures.  It gave this drink a whole new character from how I knew it before.  I have always liked this refreshing drink but with mint, it becomes much more delectable.


    My son, the Coca-Cola drinker, even admitted that it's better than Coke!  Now, I never dreamed of taking away the spotlight on this cola drink from the eyes of a kid.  My God, it's a miracle!  He had always been drinking calamansi juice but with this new blend, he cannot stop drinking it.  This renewed interest in this drink fulfills my role in giving him healthy food.    


    I have four plants in all and I just emptied one with all its fruit.  The others are laden with tiny green pearls at the moment and I can't wait to harvest them.  They are mature when they become soft even if the skin is still green.  Since these plants are like dwarf trees, both my kids are the ones who harvest these little lemons.  Sometimes they rush to me, all flustered from running, seriously taking their harvesting jobs.  It's so cute to see them struggling to empty their small pockets with their little clumsy hands.  One by one , an odd mixture of things is extracted from their pockets. Little stones, miniscule toys, calamansi, both mature & unripe (Sigh.), a piece of string or small beads.



    Calamansi Juice with Mint

    Ingredients:
    1 liter of juice
    • 750 ml. water
    • 200 grams calamansi, also called calamondin, halved
    • 5 tablespoons honey (or white sugar or both), depends really on how sweet you want it
    • mint leaves
    • ice
    Directions:
    1. In a small bowl or cup, squeeze all the calamansi through a small strainer to separate the seeds from the juice.  Discard the seeds.   Add 3 tablespoons honey and dilute with the juice.  It's better to mix less sweetener at the beginning then adjust it later according to your taste.  Mix until honey has become liquid. 
    2. Mix the mixture with the water in a pitcher.  Add the remaining honey to adjust the taste.
    3. Add the mint leaves and ice.  





    22 September 2011

    Black Tonnarelli with Shore Crab Roe & Shrimp


    Locally known as taba ng talangka in the Philippines, it is translated as crab fat which is actually a misnomer because it is not made of fat but of crab roe.  This shore crab roe paste is something peculiar that comes from Pampanga, a region bordered by a river which is the shore crabs' habitat.    These crabs are very small and to fill up a small bottle takes a big sack of them.  But nowadays, the bottles you find are rarely pure.  They are already mixed with starch.  I never really tasted the ones straight from the crabs themselves anyway so I wouldn't know the difference but this blogger did. 

    The crab roe are sold pre-cooked in oil, salt & calamansi (calamondin) juice before being bottled.  It is best represented in a simple dish in which the crab roe paste is sauteed in oil with garlic and a squeeze or two of calamansi mixed with hot boiled white rice.   That is how I usually enjoy this delicacy and that is how I had been eating it the past two days.   God forbid, I have to stop eating like there's no tomorrow!   How did I end up with this bottle(s) anyway?  A long-time friend from school sent them to me, along with a big bag of goodies from the Philippines.  I think her main aim is to make me fat under the guise of being thoughtful.  Tsk! Tsk!


    Sometimes we remember friendships in the most unlikely things.  This friend remembers me well with a bottle of orange crab roe.  How unglamorous!  And I remember her well with a bowl of chicken soup.  It has been twenty years and we can still pick up where we left off like there was no interruption of years in between.   I have to say that with these two decades of being friends, she has never left my side through pains & triumphs.  She is one of my foundations in this blog, ever supportive.  Being a professional creative writer,  I hang on to whatever she thinks.  I can go on about what a great friend she is but she's one person who cannot stand mush.  Sigh.

    While there are good friends who support you, there are also some who pull you down when they realize you are doing something meritable.   It's called crab mentality and it is associated with this kind of crab based on one of their habits.  The term was derived from the way these small shore crabs try to escape imprisonment in containers while trying to claw their way out.  Each crab pulls down the crab who is a bit higher than them making it almost impossible to go out of the container.

    When I started this blog, I started to see both kinds of friends.   On one side, I feel unconsolably hurt when this crab mentality weasels its way between me and people I had considered friends.  On the other hand, I get the inspiration and energy to go on from the supportive words of genuine friends, old & new, virtual & real.  I am a simple person, and as much as I try to contemplate about this menacing mentality, I cannot comprehend the simple question, why?  I'm sure I am not alone in this boat and that a lot of us have these crabs in our lives clawing us down.   I guess there's nothing to do but just to stay away from their reach and climb higher.


    Now back to the real crabs.  10 kilos heavier after, with that big bag of goodies almost depleted by me alone, I finally got to settle down and compose this dish that speaks of the fusion of two different cuisines together.  Mixing the shore crab roe paste with pasta is becoming more familiar in the Philippine kitchen.  I had some tonnarelli al nero di seppia (tonnarelli with the black ink of cuttlefish) waiting in my cupboard for a perfect opportunity and I thought that this is the best candidate for my shore crab roe & shrimp sauce.   I could have used any pasta really but I thought the color would go well with the vividness of the crab roe paste, shrimp & parsley.


    Black Tonnarelli with Shore Crab Roe & Shrimp

    Ingredients:
    Serves 4

    • 400 g. (black) tonnarelli al nero di seppia or any long pasta
    • 500 g. shrimp, shelled & deveined (heads saved)
    • 230 g. or 1 bottle of shore crab roe (taba ng talangka)
    • 2 cloves garlic, halved
    • extra virgin olive oil
    • 1 calamansi, juice (optional)
    • parsley (optional), chopped finely

    1. Boil water in pot for the pasta.  When it boils, add salt.  Put the pasta and  cook according to the number of minutes indicated in the package.
    2. Meantime, while waiting for the water to boil, prepare the sauce.
    3. Saute' garlic in a saucepan with extra virgin olive oil.  When they turn brown, take them away & discard.  
    4. Add the shrimp heads and press them lightly to take out the juices.  Cook for about 10 minutes.  
    5. Add the shrimp and cook for about 10 minutes or until they turn brownish.  Remove all the shrimp heads and discard.
    6. Put down the fire.  Add the crab roe.  Add calamansi juice (optional).  Cook for 5 minutes.  
    7. Add the cooked pasta and mix well with the sauce.  Toss for a couple of minutes.  Turn off fire.  Sprinkle with some parsley (optional) & drizzle with extra virgin olive oil.  
    8. I didn't add any more salt because the sauce is already tasty. 

    21 September 2011

    The Versatile Blogger Award

    I haven't completed my year yet (exactly 7 months now) in blogging so that categorizes me as a semi-newbie to this wonderful virtual world of gastronomy.   Food blogging is not a walk in the park.  Behind every post entails a lot of work.  Cooking, food composing, photographing and the work we all like the least, cleaning up.  Then there's also the writing part.  And to receive an award that compensates all these is heartwarming.  So from a fellow food blogger to another food blogger from two countries away, THANK YOU very much Tobias of T and Tea Cake!

    Tobias just passed his first month anniversary or mensiversary, as he fondly describes it.   It reminds me when I learned its equivalent in Italian, complemese, when I was starting to learn the language.  Tobias, Buon Complemese

    Along with this award comes a certain number of rules.  So I am plunging in and going along with what I should be doing.

    1.  Thank the person who gave you the award.  (Check!)
    2.  Tell 7 random things about yourself. (Scroll down.)
    3.  Pass the award on to 5 bloggers you've recently discovered and you think are fantastic!  (Scroll more down.)

    Normally, I evade these things but since blogging makes my life more public anyway, here we go:
    1.   I cannot stand the smell and taste of milk.  That includes cream & fresh cheese too.  With two growing kids who drink almost a liter of milk everyday that I have to prepare, it is a major struggle for me.   Milk sloshes are my worst enemy.  I can't wait for the time to come when they can prepare their own milk.  Ahum, another 10 years perhaps?  By that time, maybe I will join them and start drinking the white stuff myself. 

    2.    I hate worms.   Just the sight of these wiggly creatures makes my skin hairs stand up.  But this is after I played with them and ate them when I was younger.  Yes, you read right.  Ate them.  Mopani worms are delicacies of South Africa that I had the sudden gall to stuff in my mouth while our South African hosts were discussing whether to try it or not.  Dont worry, they were deep fried.  We were in The Train Restaurant, a place serving all kinds of animal meat, including elephants and of course, the smaller creatures - mopani worms.  I learned from my family that when I was a little girl, I used to play with big, fat, green caterpillars so much that I considered them as pets.  Taking them on a stroll in the garden, trapped in my fists, wriggling to escape from my clutches.  Yuck!  I can't really say yuck to this after eating one!

    3.   I am nocturnal.  Ever since I was young, I had always been fond of staying awake at nighttime.  That means after midnight.  It's the silence that draws me.   At nighttime, I do everything that I should be doing during daytime even rearranging my bedroom furniture.  I thought I was born at the wrong side of the hemisphere.  I am obviously mistaken because I am writing this at past midnight and still very awake at the other side of the hemisphere.

    4.   Teletubbies, please no!  Being the youngest in the family, I was the last one to get married and have kids.  When my nieces and nephews were discovering Teletubbies, I had the freedom to leave the room to escape from the four unidentifiable colored creatures jumping around the television screen.  Years after, as much as I tried to hide the show when it's out in the television, my son chanced upon it and the love for Teletubbies started.  I endured years of having to watch episode after episode.  I introduced Barney, the purple dinosaur and he loved it too.  Whew!  At least Barney is watchable and I even like his shows.  Now I am on to child number 2 who is also a Teletubbies lover. 

    5.   I can survive just by eating Philippine mangoes.  When confronted by other kinds of fruits, there's no other fruit that can shine as bright as a Philippine mango in my eyes. Why Philippine mangoes?  Because that is what I grew up with.  On my travels to warm countries that have their own mangoes, I make sure that I try theirs for comparison.  The ones from the Philippines are still the sweetest and simply the best.

    6.   I never order ice cream cones because I hate licking the ice cream and I hate it when it drips on my fingers. 

    7.   I go around the house with my label maker, checking what still needs to be labeled.  As if I haven't labeled everything yet.  When you open our closets & cupboards, the linens are also labeled according to kind.   It started as a way to acquaint my husband with the things in the house whenever I am not around.  Then it stuck.  It's easier this way,  I'm telling you.  


    And now the other bloggers I have recently discovered.  This is pretty hard for me because I don't really have the time to check other blogs around as evidenced by my quite empty blogroll.  I wish I can find the time to do fill it up.   I never had any contact with the majority these fellow bloggers so the next task is to inform them.   Here's the list in alphabetical order:

    Italian Food Forever - If you want genuine Italian cooking in English, try this site.  Deborah Mele is an American who resides in Umbria with her Italian husband and has been cooking for more than 30 years.  She's an inspiration. 

     Jun-Blog - Jun Belen is a Philippine-born, San Francisco-based professional photographer, writer & stylist.  His blog was recently a finalist in Saveur's 2011 Best Regional Cuisine in the Best Food Blog Awards.  He cooks Philippine cuisine with mind-blowing photographs.

    Kitchen Bloody Kitchen - An Italian blog that has marvelous photography!

    Rachel Cooks Thai - Rachel is an American cooking Thai food with the help of her Thai boyfriend.  I haven't done any of her recipes yet but given the chance, I would browse her site longer and whip up something from her collection. 

    Sips and Spoonfuls - A blog maintained by Sukaina, a food writer & photographer in Dubai.  The photography is fantastic and the food she prepares seem so good. 







    19 September 2011

    Scialatielli Amalfitani with Salmon & Tomatoes


    My family loves salmon but I can't keep on roasting them in the oven or they will lose interest and start looking for my replacement.   My kids are antagonists to leftover meals.  Sometimes, I can push once with some of their favorite dishes but more than that, it's a big drama on the kitchen table that puts any soap opera to shame. 

    I just bought a kilo of salmon and cooked it in the oven with mustard & honey just like how the kids love it.  I set aside a portion with pasta on my mind for the following meal.  I do have a delicious fresh salmon pasta recipe that is without a doubt, one of the best I know.  It needs cream though and being a non-dairy person, I don't usually keep them at home.  

    I tried this more basic Mediterranean approach considering the pasta I had goes well with seafoods.  Fresh tomatoes, capers, parsley, wine & a generous amount of good extra virgin olive oil.  Simple, easy and flavorful.  You can always change the kind of fish - whatever you have at the moment.  No fuss there.  I have used spigola (seabass), orata or branzino (sea bream), merluzzo (codfish) & triglie (mullet).   They are all good but the ones that stand out are the mullet version and of course this salmon version because the meat are very tasty.

    A little advice though to the ones with kids - since mullet is a small kind of fish, there is an abundant amount of small fishbones.  It takes an eternity to clean them from the fishbones and when you thought you have cleaned them enough, your kids keep on taking out the little fiends from their mouths (if they are able to take them out).  Not really for the faint-hearted parents.

    Salmon, as we all know, is packed with omega-3.  From what I read about it, in every 115 g. or 4 oz. of the fish, there is a 2-gram omega-3 content.  Not bad for a week's worth of trying to put omega-3 in your diet.   If you would like more information, here's the link I found.  The bad side is, like most big fishes, salmon is more susceptible to having mercury which is why pregnant women cannot eat them.  I survived it twice along with the other food I love.   I was absolutely an angel in not eating what I was not allowed to.   I am done with that and I am here to enjoy salmon for the rest of my life. 


    Scialatielli Amalfitani with Salmon & Tomatoes

    Ingredients:
    Serves 4
    • 400 g. scialatielli amalfitani (or any short pasta)
    • 400 g. fresh salmon, cubed
    • 100 g. cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
    • parsley, chopped finely
    • 1/2 cup white wine
    • 2 tbsp. capers
    • salt & pepper
    • 1 clove garlic, halved
    • extra virgin olive oil
    1. Boil water for the pasta.  When it boils, add salt.  Add the pasta and cook according to the number of minutes suggested in the box.
    2. Meantime, while waiting for the water to boil, prepare the sauce.
    3. Saute' garlic in a saucepan with extra virgin olive oil.  When golden, add the tomatoes.  Cook for about 10 minutes then add the salmon.  Cook for 5 minutes, tossing carefully.  Add the capers.
    4. Add white wine and put up the flame to let the alcohol evaporate.  When the alcohol evaporates, put down the flame and add the parsley.   Season with salt & pepper.
    5. Add cooked pasta.  Mix well.  Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil before serving. 




    16 September 2011

    Mozzarella with Anchovies in Truffle Oil



    For two years in a row, I spent my birthday rushing in the airports, flying somewhere with two kids in tow.  If you are also a parent, you would understand what it connotes.  Not that my idea of celebrating my birthday is to run around the airport and keep two kids at bay while lugging around a heavy hand luggage containing anything imaginable that can entertain kids.  I am not even tackling the issue of being inside the airplane.  Looking at the wall clock every second is the second main event.  Time stands still when you need it to go faster.   I have this quintessential caricature of two battered-looking parents walking behind two frolicking children.  Parenting can be severely trying but with just one little smile from the kids, well, it's a cliche' but it's true, it melts your heart.

    14 September 2011

    Schiacciata con Uva e Rosmarino (Grapes & Rosemary)


    This is trial number two to the Florentine focaccia dolce con uva fragola, otherwise known as schiacciata con uva fragola.   I still believe the first recipe I tried of the concord grape cake a couple of weeks ago was not a focaccia, for that I renamed it as a cake.  This new recipe I found instead is the real deal and I think it's material to be shared.  

    12 September 2011

    Round Cucumber & Tomato Salad and Simple Oven-Roasted Codfish Fillet with Soy Sauce



    While at a fruit & vegetable market in Sicily, I chanced upon some fruit & vegetables I've never seen before.  One of these curious produce is the round cucumber, which, according to the vendor & my husband's relatives, has a more pleasant taste compared to its cousins, the regular one we all recognize as regular cucumber and another variety I was checking out that's longer, thinner and darker.  Mentally assessing my luggage, the round ones immediately gained space in my already bloating third suitcase.   What is a kilo more of round gourds anyway?  I made sure they are not available in Rome or I would feel so foolish to be lugging around some vegetables fruit that can be found where I live.   Uhhmm, I just found out that tomatoes & cucumbers are actually fruits but mistakenly referred to as vegetables by the majority, like me.


    Traveling with produce in the handcarry luggage reminded me of a trip I did once to Luanda, Angola with my mom & sister.  They had an unorthodox way of welcoming arriving travelers by ruffling through the handcarry luggage one by one after going through immigration control.  And they also take time in each bag if and whenever they deem necessary amusing.  Queuing for our turn, the customs officer was having the time of his life humiliating the owner of a bag with an onion, tomato & garlic in it by showing everyone the vegetables like show & tell time.  Being young, this episode etched its mark to my memory.  Not that this kind of behavior is acceptable anyway but everytime I put a fresh produce in my bag, my mind travels back to memory lane. 


    My round cucumbers and I went through a rather dull arrival in the airport of Rome.   I prepared a cucumber and tomato salad that I paired with oven-roasted breaded fish fillet with calamansi (calamondin) & soy sauce.  It's a fresh & simple combination that is so perfect on hot days.  Well, if you discount the cooking in the oven part.  Let me get back to the calamansi.  It's a kind of lemon that is small at about an inch in diameter.   It is indigenous in the Philippines and staple in most sauces.  I have 4 thriving plants that yield fruit continuously.   It blends perfectly with soy sauce or fish sauce.  It can also be prepared as a refreshing drink which I will be making soon because all the plants are presently laden with fast maturing fruit.



    Round Cucumber & Tomato Salad

    Ingredients:
    Serves 4
    • 3 round cucumbers, diced (or regular cucumbers)
    • 2 medium tomatoes, diced
    • chives, chopped
    • salt & pepper
    • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
    • 1/4 cup white wine vinegar
    • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil 
    1. Mix all solid ingredients together in a bowl.   
    2. Mix all the liquids in a separate bowl.  Season with salt & pepper.  Mix well.
    3. Pour sauce on the salad.  Mix.  Serve cold. 


    Simple Oven-Roasted Codfish Fillet with Soy Sauce

    Ingredients:
    Serves 4
    • 4 codfish fillets
    • breadcrumbs
    • salt
    • extra virgin olive oil
    • soy sauce
    • calamansi (or regular lemon)
    1. Rinse and pat dry the fillets with kichen paper towels.  
    2. Covered them with breadcrumbs on both sides.  
    3. Sprinkle a bit of salt then drizzle with extra virgin olive oil.  
    4. Put them in an oiled baking pan and roast in a pre-heated oven at 180 degrees Celcius for half an hour.   Put it at the grill position, not the baking position, because they will become soggy.  
    5. The sauce was just a combination of calamansi and soy sauce, adjusted according to my taste so I am not giving proportions.  When the fish fillet is cooked, put some sauce on top. 

      Sicily

      Scala dei Turchi (Stair of the Turks), a rocky cliff formed by marl, a white sedimentary rock.  The name is derived from the frequent raids of the Turks & the Barbary Coast pirates. 


      Sicily through the lens of my broken camera.  My third trip to this region would be permanently dubbed with this title.   Being an impromptu trip, we had to rush everything, including my dslr camera sitting quietly in the service center.  We were able to get it at the last minute before leaving and inevitably, it failed me right in the middle of my frenzy of taking pictures of the breathtaking panorama of the Scala dei Turchi.   I....was....unconsolably....shattered.  There is no other word I can put to describe how devastating it is to have your camera break down right in the middle of shooting a fantastic sight.   I relentlessly clicked on the camera even if I was seeing nothing and the sound it was emitting was unmistakably wrong.  I just remembered someone telling me to give it up, it's broken.  Dejectedly, I put it aside and avoided looking at the other point & shoot camera peeking from my bag.  Using it doesn't give me the satisfaction but I can't continue with our vacation without documenting anything at all.  After a little bit of tinkering with the dslr, my husband found a temporary way to make it work.   To take a single picture is painstakingly long and puts my knowledge in manual photography to test - which is technically zero. 

      This island has a peculiarity that adds to its attraction.  It still is able to retain a lot of its tradition and culture albeit modernity is already knocking at its front door.   The first time I went around the whole island 12 years ago, I didn't see a single McDonald's.  I was both amused and proud that a place can still withstand pressures of the age of fast food.  I learned that it opened its first franchise a few years ago in one of the busy cities.

      Here are some shots that I indefatigably captured (with the help of my husband) with what's left of the dslr and the point & shoot. 

      Temple of Concordia in Agrigento.  One of the eight ancient Greek temples on the hilltop of the valley of the temples.  It was erected around 430 B.C..
      Prickly pears are scattered everywhere in the island.
      One of the streets of the town of Noto.
      The baroque San Giorgio Cathedral of the town of Modica. 
      Inside the cathedral.
      Modica.

      One of the alleys in Ragusa Ibla.
      Ragusa Ibla.
      Ragusa Ibla.

      The town of Piazza Armerina.


      Orecchio di Dionisio (Ear of Dionysius) in Siracusa.  It is an artificial limestone cave that is shaped like an ear.  Because of its shape, it has extremely good acoustics making even a small sound resonate throughout the cave.
      Piazza Armerina's Villa Romana del Casale was built in the first quarter of the 4th century A.D.  It contains the richest, largest & most complex ancient Roman mosaics in the world.
      The ancient Greek wall of Gela from the 4th century B.C. It's peculiarity is that the stones are made of tufa cooked under the sun. It was originally 18 km. long and more than 2 meters thick. 400 m. is still intact, 200 m. of which is perfectly preserved in its original form.



      Ragusa.
      An example of a baroque balcony in the town of Noto.

      Ragusa Ibla.
      Ragusa Ibla.

      A church door in Piazza Armerina.



      Restructuring the mosaics in the Villa Romana del Casale.



      Church of the town of Aidone.
      Piazza Armerina.
      Sicilian cauliflower.

      Salsiccia on terracotta slabs waiting to be grilled.
      Typical way of selling fruit & vegetables in Sicily.

      The coastline of Gela.
      Fresh ricotta in cavagna, kept the old way.