30 October 2011

Spaghetti con Moscardini (Musky Octopus)

Small tentacles here, there and everywhere.  Because my son, Riccardo loves this pasta, I prepare it.  Because he eats with enthusiastic enjoyment, I prepare it.  Because Sofia copies him in eating it, I prepare it.  But because I don't like tentacles, I wish I was not preparing it.   Can you imagine my uneasiness in cleaning so many little octopuses?   But I am a mother so I will just shut up. 

28 October 2011

Shrimp Cooked in Red Wine and San Gregorio da Sassola

It is the time of the year when you never wear the correct clothes.  It's either you're too hot in a jacket or too cold in a shirt.  The weather had been fantastic lately (until the disastrous storm in The Cinque Terre area) and the sun had been shining the strongest on weekends.  It is autumn and some people are already bundled up like Eskimos and some are still prancing around in their tropical island attire. I secretly think that the ones bundled in heavy clothes have already switched their wardrobes from summer to winter while the ones with the light garb have yet to do this arduous work. I already did mine.  It's my least favorite part of the changing seasons.  

24 October 2011

Verdure in Padella (Mixed Vegetables)

Vegetables cooked in a saucepan is the literal translation of verdure in padella.  I was asked to post more Italian vegetable dishes so here is an example of a very simple and classic cooked vegetables.  The vegetables vary according to season and of course, whatever you have available in the kitchen.  No rules, really.  Just dump those beautiful, fresh veggies you have and cook away.

22 October 2011

Pickled Radishes

Like what I said, anything touched with vinegar is delicious to me.  And I am presently in a vinegary food binge.  I recently cooked the salt & vinegar potato chips and it fixed my craving (for now) for those very good French potato chips.  Then came the avocado, tomato & spring onion salad which was so good with the grilled salmon that I bought some more avocado and salmon soon after for an encore. 

Here is a discovery from Jun Belen's Jun-blog (who in turn got it from Thomas Keller's Ad Hoc at Home) that takes almost no effort in making but is lipsmacking good.  The sweetness & sourness of the pickling agent is just perfect.  From the original recipe, I had to add a pinch of salt & a dash of pepper.   I felt like I had to break the sweetness & the sourness a bit.  That is how I would like my pickled radishes to taste like.  It can be different for you so the salt & pepper are of course, optional. 

I prepared these pickles much in advance.  When I tried them a few hours after preparation, something like 3 hours, the radishes already caught the taste of the pickling liquid.  But then, when I had them again the following day, the radishes completely absorbed the liquid.   They were strong and delicious.   I was amazed at how the vinegar took the color of the skin of the radish and in turn made everything red. 

I finished the radishes in no time but the pickling liquid remained.  The penny pincher in me didn't want to throw out the liquid so I did another batch of radishes using the same pickling agent.   They didn't taste as good as the first batch.  In fact, even the day after, they still didn't catch the full taste like they should.  So based on my little experience, you can't recycle the pickling liquid.  Maybe you already know that.  I didn't. 

Pickled Radishes

  • 1/2 cup champagne vinegar (I substituted it with white wine vinegar.)
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 cup red radishes, washed, trimmed, thinly sliced or quartered
  • salt & pepper (I added these on my own.)
  1. Combine vinegar, sugar, and water in a small saucepan.  Bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar.  
  2. Remove from the fire and let cool to room temperature, then chill in the refrigerator.
  3. Put the radishes in a canning jar or other storage container and pour the pickling liquid over them.   Let stand for 20 to 30 minutes, then cover and refrigerate for up to 1 month.  
  4. The radishes absorbed the vinegar mixture after a few hours in the pickling liquid.   I enjoyed them better the day after.

21 October 2011

Grilled Shrimp with Tamarind Sauce

I was in the kitchen alternating between grilling the shrimps and cooking the tamarind sauce when I saw my blog's traffic viewing counter turn 100,000.  I had been watching it go up the whole morning.  As apprehensive as I was, I had been trying to do all things together to keep my mind off the numbers for a while.  Just seeing so many 9s already gave me an odd sensation of disbelief.  Then when I saw the magical number, it gave me a sense of completion.  I was more than happy.   It's like time stopped when I was staring at the screen.  Jubilance can give strange reactions sometimes.  You see, it is not just a number to me.  I see it as a number of times I have opened my kitchen to anyone who knocked, looked in and checked what I was cooking.  One hundred thousand times, I opened my door to you and during those times you bid me goodbye and you came back over and over again.  Thank you for holding that interest and visiting my kitchen. 

18 October 2011

Avocado, Tomato & Spring Onion Salad

I am the last person on earth who would buy anything heart-shaped, and even red for that matter.  I am not a Valentine nemesis. I am just not into them.  I might consider pastel colored hearts made of wood. A country-style look is always irresistibly cute.  So, I surprised myself when I grabbed this red heart-shaped bowl from the shop.  I didn't even think twice about buying it.  I think I am getting old.  All my life I have turned my back on red hearts and now reaching my 4th decade, I was to be found in a shop holding the only thing I wouldn't even think of looking at.  A red heart-shaped bowl.  P.S.  I find it beautiful. 

17 October 2011

Salt & Vinegar Potato Chips, Terracina and Fondi

I love anything with vinegar in it.  Much to my husband's dismay, who absolutely hates the smell of vinegar, he has to live with it.  He married me so he also married my vinegar side.  He doesn't really like anything pungent so I can't toss back to him the Tsk! Tsk! look he sends my way when there's a whiff of anything particularly acidically strong in the kitchen. 

Pomegranate & Lemon Spritzer

At six o'clock on the dot, an unsure little voice came out from the dimly lit corridor.  I'm awake.  I can't sleep anymore.  I looked outside through the window and saw that it was still pitch dark.   It is Sunday morning.   We were hoping to gain an hour of two of more sleep today.  I cajoled my son to go back to bed but he was insistent.  He was awake and he refused to go back to bed.  How come he never wakes up this early when it's a school day?  He watched TV at the other end of the house while he waited for his Papi to prepare his breakfast.  I noticed that my husband closed the door of the kids' room so that our daughter remains undisturbed. If she wakes up too, any hope of prolonging our sleep will be gone. 

14 October 2011

Potato & Calamari Salad with Kiwi & Lime

It took me some time to get used to this salad.   I usually can't dodge it because it's always a part of the antipasto freddo (cold appetizer) platter in the restaurants.  I love everything but this one.  It is very good, don't get me wrong.  What invokes this refusal is the sight of the chopped tentacles.    I really don't find that inviting.  Then it all changed when I was once served this dish without the tentacles.  I was relieved and for the first time, I enjoyed it because I was spared the job of segregating.  And what do you know, it was actually more than good.

11 October 2011

Ciriole with Pistachios of Bronte, Sword Fish & Tomatoes

I had been using a considerable amount of pistachios from Bronte, Sicily lately to the point of being excessive.  Just for the bread swirls of my kids, my supply of ground pistachios was almost depleted.  It's a good thing my mother-in-law was in Sicily recently and replenished my dwindling supply.  When I was there last month, I brought home all sorts of pistachio products from Bronte that I could find.  Pesto di pistacchio, crema di pistacchio (cream), pistacchio granulato (ground) & croccantini di pistacchio (pistachio brittles).  I was a traveling advertisement of the town. 

I got this recipe from Profumo di Sicilia and curiosity got the better of me why the pistachios from Bronte are referred to as the l'oro verde (the green gold).   They are considered one of the best, well perhaps the best pistachios in the world as evidenced by their gastronomical price (are they serious?) which I learned from David Lebovitz's pistachio gelato recipe where he wrote extensively about these prized pistachios from a small town in Sicily.  

I feel guilty.  I had been sprinkling them everywhere without limit.  Maybe now, I will use these l'oro verde sparingly.   They are really good.  I first tried them in a pistachio gelato of a Sicilian gelateria in Rome and it was the first time I encountered pistachios that can actually be tasted.  They are usually so subtle that you can just imagine the taste.  I find it awkward when, after taking a few spoonfuls of pistachio ice cream, my eating buddy elbows me conspiratorially remarking how good pistachio ice creams are.  What pistachios?  I don't even know how they really taste like.  I just know that they are green.  Bronte pistachios changed this whole perspective because these very green nuts are nutty, flavorful and the best I've tasted.  My love for Bronte pistachios was established. Now we're talking pistachios.

Do you know that the pistachio plants have to be planted in groups of 8 females & 1 male?  The male plants have to be windward while the females are downwind so that the pollen from the male plants can be transported by the wind to the pistils of the female plants.  I had to share that.  It's quite interesting.

When I saw this recipe, I knew it would be very good.  I couldn't wait to try it.   I was not disappointed.  It's a scrumptious dish that puts together the Mediterranean flavors.  If you want something different, try it.  It's worth your time & effort.  I think you will agree with me.  It won't disappoint you either. 

There are some changes I did from the original recipe:  I replaced the parsley with thyme.  Instead of sparkling white wine, I used a normal one.  I augmented the amount of pistachios from 4 tbsp. to 6 and I doubled the amount of tomatoes.  Lastly, I used ciriole pasta instead of fresh chitarra although I would definitely use chitarra the next time I cook it.

Ciriole with Pistachios of Bronte, Sword Fish & Tomatoes

Serves 4
  • 400 grams ciriole (or any slightly thick long pasta like chitarra)
  • 250 grams sword fish, diced
  • 150 grams datterini tomatoes (or grape or cherry tomatoes), halved
  • 6 tablespoons ground pistachios
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1 clove garlic, halved
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt 
  • Pepper
  • Fresh thyme
  1. Boil water in a pot.  When it boils, add the salt.  Put the pasta and cook according to the cooking time suggested in the box. 
  2. Meantime, over medium heat, sautè the garlic in a big saucepan with extra virgin olive oil.  When golden, discard it.  Add the tomatoes.  Cook for about 5 minutes.  
  3. Add the sword fish and put up the flame.  When they start to color, add the white wine, maintaining the high flame.  Season with salt & pepper.
  4. Cook for another 5 minutes or until the sauce becomes a bit thick.  Add the thyme and half of the pistachios.
  5. Mix in the cooked pasta.  Toss well with the sauce.  Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil.  Sprinkle the remaining pistachios. 

10 October 2011

Sword Fish & Vegetable Skewers

How many times did I write that to have vibrant natural colors in my food matters a lot?   As I was preparing these skewers, I felt like summer was still here to stay. It was a desperate attempt to keep it a while longer, even if I can feel that the temperature has already dropped. The weather had been so erratic. The morning had opened up with a promise of a beautiful day but then it became windy, cold, dreary, gray and just plain ugly.   We were cooped indoors.  

07 October 2011

Bread Swirls (Pinwheel Sandwiches) with Honey, Pistachios & Chocolate

These bread swirls or pinwheel sandwiches caused a lot of excitement with the kids. There is no other kind of food that gives me pleasure in creating than the ones that are meant for the little ones. Especially when I am able to divert them away from the commercial snacks. Lately, as I had been reading the ingredients of the biscuits & snacks at the supermarkets, I noticed so much E-number additives in every product. Even the simplest biscuits contain more chemical additives than natural ones. 

05 October 2011

Risotto alla Zucca (Squash Risotto)

Summer has gone by so fast.  One minute, I couldn't wait for the season to finish then it just went zooming by so fast that I didn't even realize it.  Did we even pass September? It played hide & seek with me. It's already October.... and it's time for some squash.